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My cost to call home to the US from my German cell phone is now essentially the same as it is for anyone in Germany calling to anyone else in Germany from a cell phone.
Call costs in Europe are very different from the pricing structure in the US. Calls TO cell phones cost more than calls to land lines. Call from cell phones have various rates depending on your carrier, plan, and who you're calling. I'm using an O2 Loop account with an unlocked Nokia phone I bought for 40 Euro last time I was here. With this plan, like most plans here, incoming calls are free while I'm in Germany. SMS messages sent are very inexpensive, but calling out to the US is very expensive.
Here's what I've done:
From my cell phone, I send an SMS message. It routes quickly though a gateway and into my Domino server where it lands in a mail in database.
A pre-delivery agents instantly picks it up, and drops an entry into a queue for Asterisk.
Asterisk (my VOIP server) dials my cell phone in Germany. The rate for that is 22 cents per minute billed in 6 second intervals. That's because its a cell phone. Calling a land line in Germany is only 1.6 cents per minute. The difference is the carrier cost..
When I answer the cell phone -- now a "free" incoming call on that phone -- my Asterisk server prompts me for a number. I enter whatever number I want to call and Asterisk connects the call as it would if I were dialing from my home office. Total call cost is now radically less than making a call to the US from the cell phone would otherwise be.
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What I like to do when calling abroad from a mobile is to use
http://www.Rebtel.com which as far as I know is the only provider to offer free
international calls from moible to mobile. The way it works is you convert the
phone numbers of your friends to loal ones (in your example German ones) then
you call your friend and either speak to him and pay Rebtels low rates or ask
him to call the local number (a town near the person you called) he got on his
display. You do not hang up but stay on the line and Rebtel connects you once
he calls back. Total cost of call / you pay the german call (local) and your
friend pays his local call. The international part is free. Rebtel has saved my
international relationship as I like to call on the go and not be tied to a
computer (aka skype).